Flea Market Find – Lineman’s Handset

I recently purchased a blue lineman’s handset for $12. It is quite an interesting piece of hardware. At first glance, it looks like a standard handset, but upon further review there are characteristics that set it apart. On the back of the handset is a rotary dial used for dialing numbers, a hook to connect it to the belt, and two test leads with alligator clips. The alligator clips have a piercing spike in them to connect to insulated wires. No stripping is necessary. On the side of the phone, there is a switch that can go between TALK and MON. MON in this case stands for monitor. There is also a nice “Bell System Property – Not for sale” engraving.

I brought the handset home and plugged it in. I had the switch on TALK and instantly heard a dial tone. I decided to call my cellphone, and entered the number (which can take a bit of time using a rotary dial). I got connected and heard my voice mail message. I decided to try to use my old Radioshack tone dialer next. I punched in the number on my tone dialer, and held it up to the handset. I hit the dial button on the dialer, and heard the tones through the earpiece of the handset, but the tones did not register on the handset itself, and the number wasn’t called.

Next, I flipped the switch on the handset to MON mode. At first, I didn’t hear anything on the line. I hooked up a standard phone nearby, and picked up the handset of that phone. My lineman’s handset instantly had a dial tone, and was monitoring the line. The MON setting also turns off the microphone in the handset, so there are no slip-ups when monitoring.

Other than the cool factor, there are a few things I can do with it. I could use it as a house phone, though it does not have its own ringer. I could also do some wire tapping, but that is illegal. It is not a very practical piece of hardware, but it certainly does hold my attention. Maybe the web will end up lending me some ideas of what I could do with it.


inumbr – Throwaway Telephone Numbers

I ran accross an interesting little web service called inumbr which gives you a free disposable phone number. At first glance, you get to choose an area code. There are twenty two to choose from, so you’re bound to find one close to your location (if you are in the United States that is). You also get to choose how long the number is active: one hour, one day, or one week. Then you enter the number to forward too and an email address for activation. Pretty simple, right?

After registering I notices I received a number and an extension anyone could call to reach me. I also saw I was given the option to record a personal greeting. It also appeared that I did not even need a valid email address to get a number as I didn’t have to click any activation links. The number was just handed to me in-browser. I went back to the inumbr home page and notices that I could manage my inumbr account by logging in with the number they gave me and the number I chose to forward it to. Here, I was presented with more options for my inumbr.


I saw that I could change the length of the number’s lifespan between the three mentioned terms before, as well as a one month option that wasn’t there earlier. I also saw that they gave a slot for a second number in case the first was unreachable. After that, there are many check boxes for additional features. “Don’t accept calls from blocked caller ids,” “Don’t accept calls from suspected telemarketers,” “Forward all calls directly to voicemail,” “Do not disturb from 9PM to 8AM,” “Turn off call screening,” “Activate voicemail for missed calls.”

So in all, I got a free throwaway number with a handful of features. This is great if you have to supply a number for something and don’t want to reveal an actual one, or maybe just see how you can mess around with phones.